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Lung-Reduction Surgery Helps With Emphysema

Benefits last as long as five years for those in final stages of disease

TUESDAY, March 25, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Lung-volume reduction surgery (LVRS) seems to improve the health and quality of life for people in the final stages of emphysema.

A study from the Washington University School of Medicine found the benefits of the surgery lasted as long as five years in half the people with severe emphysema. Their report appears in the March issue of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

Researchers kept a detailed database of lung function and quality of life for the first 250 people who had LVRS between January 1993 and June 2000. The study participants were followed for an average of 4.8 years.

At the study's conclusion, more than 60 percent of the 250 people were still alive and 18 needed lung transplant surgery. Without LVRS, the researchers estimate that half of the 250 would have died within three years and the people still alive after five years would be in significantly worse condition.

Emphysema causes destruction and overinflation of the lungs. The lungs become progressively bloated, filling the chest cavity and thorax, making it difficult to expand and contract during normal breathing.

Until recently, a lung transplant was the only treatment available to people with end-state lung disease that can't be controlled with drugs. LVRS, developed in 1993, offers an alternative to transplantation.

In the LVRS procedure, surgeons remove the most diseased portions of the lung. That provides the lungs with more room to expand within the chest cavity. LVRS is not a cure for emphysema, but previous studies suggest it increases breathing capacity by more than 50 percent.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about emphysema.

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine, news release, March 25, 2003
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